Ferguson indulges in Grade ‘A’ Glazerspeak discussing Manchester United’s transfer policy

Though Sir Alex Ferguson’s allegiances at boardroom level at Manchester United have recently been brought into question by some, there can be no doubting that, at least publicly, the club’s most successful manager ever knows full well where his bread is buttered.

Ferguson has consistently lent his support to the Glazers’ ownership of United, even going so far as to describe them as ‘excellent’. Excellent despite the precarious financial situation at Old Trafford and debts exceeding £700m, as revealed in the Glazers’ own bond prospectus released in January.

Now, in light of United’s signing of Mexican striker Javier Hernandez, Sir Alex has even reverted to using the Glazers’ own business-speak, explaining that the 21-year-old’s age was a crucial factor in the deal:

“We like doing these kind of deals where we can identify young talent. We have been good at that over the years,” Ferguson commented. “There is the odd exception when we get a mature player, like Berbatov.”

“When you sign a player for that kind of money you know there is not going to be a resale value if he stays with you for six years.”

There it is. Resale value. Spoken like a true banker.

Is ‘resale value’ now a consideration for Ferguson when considering ways in which to improve his playing squad? Since when did one of the biggest, most profitable and most marketable clubs in the world have to take into account ‘resale value’ when doing business in the transfer market?

And all on a day when Manchester United reportedly turned down the chance to sign one of the world’s best strikers – David Villa – because of the £35 million asking price. Nevermind the £80 million brought in for Cristiano Ronaldo, then. At 28, of course, Villa has barely any ‘resale value.’

Has this always been an issue for Ferguson? Or is the potential to sell players on at a profit only a recent addition to United’s transfer policy?

Here is a look at some of United’s ‘odd exceptions’ as Ferguson puts it – players signed with little resale value since 1998. These are players signed either at a ‘mature’ age (over 25 we’ll say) or for a price you would reasonably consider could not be improved upon or equalled after the 6 years service Sir Alex mentions:

Transfers in1998:

Jonathan Greening
Jaap Stam (£10.6m at 26 – then record purchase for a defender)
Jesper Blomqvist
Dwight Yorke (£12.6m at 26)

1999:

Mark Bosnich
Massimo Taibi
Quinton Fortune
Mikael Silvestre

2000:

Fabien Barthez (£7.8m at 29)

2001:

Ruud van Nistelrooy (£19m at 25)
Juan Sebastien Veron (£28.1m at 26)
Roy Carroll
Laurent Blanc

2002:

Diego Forlan
Rio Ferdinand (£30m at 23)
Ricardo (£1.5m at 30)

2003:

Cristiano Ronaldo
Kleberson
Eric Djemba-Djemba
David Bellion
Tim Howard

2004:

Louis Saha (£12.8m at 25)
Alan Smith (£7m at 24…I’ll allow it)
Gabriel Heinze (£6.9m at 26)
Wayne Rooney

POST-GLAZER TAKEOVER

2005:

Edwin Van der Sar
Ji-sung Park

2006:

Nemanja Vidic
Patrice Evra
Thomas Kuszczak
Michael Carrick (£18.6m at 25)

2007:

Owen Hargreaves (£17m (rumoured) at 26)
Anderson
Nani
Manucho
Rodrigo Possebon

2008:

Dimitar Berbatov (£30.75m at 27)
Zoran Tosic
Ritchie De Laet

2009:

Luis Antonio Valencia
Michael Owen
Gabriel Obertan
Mame Biram Diouf

2010:

Chris Smalling
Javier Hernandez

Total transfers: 45
Players with little resale value: 16 (35%)

Transfers pre-Glazers: 25
Players with little resale value: 11 (44%)

Transfers during Glazer regime: 20
Players with little resale value: 5 (25%)

As you can see, in real terms the amount of players with little to no resale value under the Glazers is decreasing. Is this perhaps as a result of newfound emphasis on a ‘buy and sell for profit’ transfer policy?

It all points to a fairly unavoidable conclusion. Under the Glazers, Manchester United’s belt is tightening and the emphasis on players with ‘resale value’ is increasing. Those of a business mind might see this as a good thing, encouraging even. Running a tighter ship while keeping the team successful can be interpreted as an admirable business model, if players can be identified early, utilised effectively and sold on at a profit.

But, as we repeat time and again as far as football clubs are concerned, football is not simply a business. If you are in the top 3 most bankable clubs in world football, with the highest gate receipts and an £80 million hole burning your pocket, why the need for even Sir Alex Ferguson – the one man who should be concerned with acquiring top players and little else – to consider the amount he can make on a player six years into the future?

It doesn’t add up.

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10 Responses to “Ferguson indulges in Grade ‘A’ Glazerspeak discussing Manchester United’s transfer policy”

  1. Mo
    April 10, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    Im sorry, I think this is just aimless complaining about the Glazers and a statistical shot thrown at them based on very subjective figures and analysis.

    How about we do analysis of the figures, of the number of trophies won during the Glazer era compared to the pre-Glazer era.

    2005-2010 – 10 trophies
    1998-2004 – 6 trophies

    That’s the only statistic that counts, everything else is moot!

  2. Stu
    April 10, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Totally agree with Jonathan here. In a time where teams like Man City and (to a lesser extent now) Chelsea are throwing money around willy nilly, simply having a good business model is not going to continue to bring United the success they have enjoyed over the last 15 years.

    United need to look to the future and while bringing in good young talent is essential, it is also essential to bring in the very best players ‘for the club’ based on the qualities they offer as footballers. The amount of profit they have the potential to provide should be an afterthought.

  3. Jonathan F
    April 11, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    Mo I think you are getting confused – since when did the owners of a football club directly influence the number of trophies won?

    Stu is right, the amount of profit United might make on a player in future should be irrelevant – do you think Florentino Perez or Juan Laporta would talk like that? With United’s pre-eminent status in the world game their manager shouldn’t even be entertaining ‘resale value’ when discussing players let alone explaining it off as a reason for a signing in his press conferences!

    United are champions for the last 3 years despite the Glazers, not because of them and I think most people with an understanding of football finance would recognise that no matter their allegiances.

  4. Mo
    April 12, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    “since when did the owners of a football club directly influence the number of trophies won?”

    Since your looking at players transfers before and after the Glazer Era ultimately the players that come in need to contribute something. The Pre-Glazer era players bought in less trophies and the Glazers era bought in more trophies. This is irrelevant of re-sale value!

    Comparing yourself to Barca and Real….really? first of all both clubs are not a business like United since their conception. Laporta and Perez dont own their respected clubs they dont have shareholders to look after and they are not expected to make a profit (How many times have Real and Barca been bailed out or have debts forgiven!). They answer to their members (fans) ONLY. And Barca are a team that realies on La Maixa as a principle of their club.

    United want to be like Barca and Real and not be a for-profit business…then they need to buy their club back from the Glazers and make it a memebers club similar to Barca and Real. Then you can spend as much as you want without a care.

    Where was this article when you went to Moscow, where was the Glazer out movement when you lifted your prem hat-trick…

    • Jonathan F
      April 12, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

      I’m sorry but this article is about transfer policy not ‘Moscow’ or ‘prem hat-tricks’ as you put it.

      I think you’re being very naive in suggesting that football fans should only care about trophies and not what goes on at their club on all levels. By your own rationale fans should bother about nothing but the end result measured by trophies – in your world it seems we can abandon youth teams, academies, financial issues, supporter issues and everything else and football becomes about one thing only – trophies won.

      Football is not as simplistic as that I’m afraid.

      If anything your Barca example highlights that – one of the most successful teams of any football era playing supreme stuff, yet behind the scenes the fans are still concerning themselves with the upcoming elections – by your reasoning they shouldn’t bother.

      As you seem to be struggling with the concept of dangerous football finance I suggest reading David Conn’s excellent piece in The Guardian about the bond prospectus, which might help you:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2010/jan/13/manchester-united-finances-glazer-family

      And regarding the implication that United fans only care about the Glazers now and not in times of high success, again you’re naivety stands out: MUST have been protesting against the Glazers since before they took over the club, all the way back to the days of the hostile takeover launch in 2005. I think your point there is tenuous at best, a cheap shot based probably on anti-United sentiments at worst.

      Thanks.

  5. Mo
    April 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    I dont have an issue with understanding football finance at all. Already read David Conns articles on football club finance. And yes United are in some trouble. But the Bond has sold really well. United are always an attractive club for anyone to buy.

    Football clubs are more than just trophies, I was’nt arguing against. But your complaining about transfer policy when you have an already successful team!!! United are now going through a period of transition, but that happens to all teams. And United’s Transition has already won them something and has them contesting 2 major trophies.

    So, the transfer policy? Do you really think Fergie is denied a player by the Glazers…honestly, if he made a case for David Villa or Karim Benzema and said these boys would definetly make us money by shirts sales and trophies. The Glazers would finance it for sure, after all they are business people.

    Can the reason for Ferguson ‘Glazer speak’ also actually be a way to protect the club from mercenaries and not getting into bidding wars with Man City and Real Madrid, who have an unlimited budget??

    Everyone is wearing a green and gold scarf as an excuse for a few poor performances on the pitch is my honest feeling followed by the massive bond issue. You have to admit if im being naive in thinking this so called ‘cheap shot’, its a little convenient that everyone is in full blown protest mode when not a peep was heard in the previous seasons (Not tenuous?? find me anything written about the Glazers between 2006-2008 that was highlighting this protest)

    • Jonathan F
      April 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

      There is plenty of reading material on the protest against the Glazers between 2006-2008 – search for yourself. I can recommend some good websites if needs be. Just because you don’t read about it in the mainstream media doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

      The Green and Gold campaign began this season directly after the bond prospectus revealed just how deep the financial problems were at Old Trafford. Of course, widespread national media coverage from that prospectus meant no United fan could ignore the Glazers’ potentially dangerous ownership of the club any longer – including those only concerned with trophies – and yes, the publicity led to a huge boost in profile and impetus for the movement. Again, that is not to say disaffected feelings did not exist prior.

      I think you need to disassociate the idea that any lack of success at United is principle cause for anti-Glazer sentiment. The Green and Gold campaign launched when United were well in with a shot at 3 major trophies, so your reasoning is flawed from the get go.

      And regardless, this article is about a bizarre scenario in which a manager at one of the most profitable sports enterprises in football attributes ‘resale value’ as a factor in his club’s signings and the underlying reasons behind that. United’s on-field success has little to nothing to do with this piece.

      Thanks.

  6. Mo
    April 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    I will have a search for the articles on the Glazers between 2006 and 2008.

    But you haven’t answered my early question about…

    “Can the reason for Ferguson ‘Glazer speak’ also actually be a way to protect the club from mercenaries and not getting into bidding wars with Man City and Real Madrid, who have an unlimited budget??”

    Bearing in mind his one of the longest and most experienced managers in the game. Surely the wily old fox is playing the mind games. It brings to mind Sun Tzu’s Art of War qoute:

    “Never will those who wage war tire of deception”

    And lets face it Fergie is at war with all his rivals (incase you thought im going off point!)

    Besides, He did’nt need to say anything about ‘re-sale’ value if he did’nt have an agenda. He could be saying that just to add wait to the Anti-Glazer movement without having to betray them. Just another subtle blow aimed at the Glazers…come to think about, Ferguson is re-writting the Art of War and the Prince (by Niccolò Machiavelli) in a football context!

    • Jonathan F
      April 12, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

      Its certainly an interesting take, Mo.

      While I’m not convinced Ferguson would indulge in ‘mind games’ with the world’s club chairmen, particularly at such a crucial stage of the season for his team, you could argue that downplaying the resources available to him is a strategic angle to reduce asking prices. So maybe that is a factor.

      But I think, as I have written above, there is a definite increasing tendency for United to focus on young, ‘resaleable’ talent rather than the finished article. The question is ‘why’ and the answer – to my mind – lies somewhere in the £700m worth of debts swamping the club.

      Cheers.

  7. Mo
    April 12, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    Indeed, that £700million is a massive albatross around anyones neck. And would hamper buying any extravagant buy.

    However, dont United fans want to see players come of age in their own team. Prime examples are Ronaldo, Rooney and even Fletcher. United already bought a player who was the finished article for a massive price, he goes by the name of Dimitar Berbatov…what’s his re-sale value?

    Many Thanks